William Godwin, the Reveleys and the Jenningses

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Complete article.

On Monday 25th January 1796 Joseph Farington dined at the home of his fellow artist John Hoppner with the sculptor Joseph Wilton, and the artist Francis Wheatley and his wife. Among other bits of gossip Farington learned that "Mrs Revely has committed indiscretions with a Mr Jennings, an attorney. Mrs Jennings has proclaimed it. Revely has called on Banks for advice. Mrs Revely is still in his house but they do not speak".

In his book 'The Godwins and the Shelleys' pages 154-6 William St.Clair tried to glimpse, through William Godwin's brief but precise notes and diary entries, some of the intimacy of his friendship and flirtation with Maria Reveley - without mentioning Mr and Mrs Jennings. But the diary shows that the Reveleys and the Jennings came into Godwin's life as a package, which is worth looking at in the light of Farington's gossip.

During 21 months from 21st September 1793 when Godwin first met Maria Reveley, to 21st June 1795 when he set out for Warwick on a second visit to Dr Samuel Parr, the person most frequently mentioned in his diary was Thomas Holcroft (260 entries), followed by Maria Reveley (141), Willey Reveley (123), Joseph Jennings (116), George Dyson (113), Elizabeth Jennings (112), the still unidentified Smith (93), Joseph Ritson (88), John Foulkes (70), James Marshall (67), John Thelwall (61), Elizabeth Inchbald (60), and John Fenwick (55).

Godwin kept some of his friends separate: Smith, Ritson, Marshall and Fenwick never met any Reveleys or Jenningses when Godwin was present; Thelwall only once; Inchbald twice (at the theatre); Dyson four times; Foulkes, who met Godwin through Jennings, 16 times; and Holcroft 34 times. But on 47 occasions Godwin was in the company of at least one from each of the two couples, 25 of these occasions being with all four. So we could say Godwin was having a (social) relationship with the two couples second only to his friendship with Holcroft.

There is little doubt, as St Clair shows, that there was an attraction between Godwin and Maria Reveley, and this was probably the strongest tie for him. And the diary suggests that the friendship between the two women was the main link between the two couples, as Godwin never even in large gatherings met both husbands without at least one wife, while he met both wives and no husband on four occasions (twice visiting Newgate prisoners, once at the theatre, and once at tea at his place); he met the two women and one husband on 17 occasions, and the two husbands and one wife only twice. Of course Farington's gossip suggests another, hidden, bond which may have brought the women's friendship to an end, and we can only guess at what point the indiscretions (whatever they were) began and when Mrs Jennings, Mr Reveley and Godwin each discovered them.

In Godwin's diary there was a rising trend in the number of named contacts between 1788, when it began, and 1794. From 1788 to 1791 about one person a day was mentioned; towards the end of 1791 it stepped up to about two a day, and from September 1793 it stepped up again to four or more a day, of which the Reveleys and the Jenningses alone account for almost one. This may have reflected a more detailed diary or an increasing interest in people, but it probably also meant his social life was getting busier; whole days when he only recorded reading and writing got rarer.

These are rough figures as it's not always clear from the diary what should count as a contact, or what gender it was, but the proportion of female contacts mentioned also seems to have risen from about 8% (up to 1791), to about 13% from 1792. In 1788-91, most of the women he mentioned were at Helen Maria Williams' tea parties where the sexes mixed fifty-fifty, while at his other venues like Timothy Hollis, Thomas Brand Hollis, Thomas Holcroft, John Paradise and George Robinson he noted almost no females. In 1792-3 he recorded seeing a lot more of his female relatives, the Coopers, and particularly of his sister Hannah Godwin. He seems to have had two 'dates' in April 1792 with Holcroft's cousin Dorothy, a 30 year old spinster who got married two years later ("Dorothy Ht au soir" and 3 days after that, "dine with Dorothy") [1]. And later that year he began a regular series of calls on the playwright and former actress Elizabeth Inchbald, a 39-year-old widow (three years older than Godwin). After meeting the Jenningses and the Reveleys he kept up his visits to Inchbald but saw a lot less of his sister Hannah until his marriage to Mary Wollstonecraft in March 1797.

Also from September 1793 he fairly often noted one or two women, Miss without parent or Mrs without husband, in the chiefly male company at meals he attended. Most of these were at the Jennings's or Foulkes's and later at Holcroft's and John King's, but some were at other venues like visiting Newgate prison, and at James Mackintosh's or John Frank Newton's. Some were certainly relatives of the host or of his guests, and many of them are hard to identify, like Miss Mackenzie, Miss Christie and Miss Ramsay. This new feature in Godwin's diary may partly reflect his moving into more relaxed or fashionable circles, or partly a fashion for independence among women coinciding with the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's 'Vindication of the Rights of Women' (1794) [2].

St Clair says that the Reveleys "lived separate lives in the modern fashion"; if so the Jenningses did more so, Mrs Jennings dining four times at Holcroft's with Godwin but without her husband or Mrs Reveley. In the 1790s Holcroft was a widower, with marriageable daughters who were probably present at those meals though not named in the diary. When he married his fourth wife Louisa Mercier in 1799, she had been regularly at his dinners for the six months previous, perhaps the period of engagement.

The case of the Lunans is worth looking at in detail. The newspaper editor James Perry's sister Mary had married Andrew Lunan at Aberdeen in 1778 and they had two children. They moved to London in 1782 where he worked as a bookbinder but in 1787 he married Ann McPherson at Chelsea and had children by her. Mary obtained a divorce from him in Scotland in 1794, which unlike English divorces that hadn't gone through the House of Lords, allowed her to remarry [3]. She dined at Holcroft's in July 1794 (as Mrs Luneham) when the guests were Mrs Reveley, Mr and Mrs Jennings, and her future husband Richard Porson, but her brother James Perry wasn't there. The Porsons didn't marry till November 1796 and she died sadly in April 1797.

In December 1794 she dined at Holcroft's again (as Mrs Lunan) with the Thelwalls and the Foulkeses and Porson but no Perry. In March 1795 at Mackintosh's Godwin noted her (as plain Lunan) with Perry and Porson among others. (This could hardly have meant her ex-husband and is one of many examples of Godwin using a plain surname for a woman, as he did with Wollstonecraft from their first meeting.) In August 1795 she dined at Holcroft's (as Mrs Lunan) and again there in September with Porson and Perry (as plain Lunan), and Godwin met her in August 1796 (as Mrs Lunan). Her 16-year old daughter (as M A Lunan) dined at Holcroft's in August 1796 without her mother or her uncle Perry, and Godwin noted "M A Lunan" in 1797, "Lunan" in 1802, "miss Lunan" in 1809 and "Lunan" in 1817, each time with Perry. Marianne Lunan married Thomas Bentley in 1803 and appeared as Mrs Bentley in 1809 and Bentleys in 1817. She had two sisters, Annabella and Catherine, neither of whom married.

On 7th August 1793 Godwin dined at John Frost's in Newgate with Holcroft and first met Frost and Joseph Gerrald. This was the first of many visits over the next two years by Godwin to political prisoners, who were later to include his two fellow visitors of that day. On 11th August he dined at Holcroft's and first met Robert Merry; on 1st September he called on Frost again with Holcroft, and on 5th September Gerrald called on Godwin and they dined together at Joseph Jennings', another new meeting. Then on 21st September Godwin took tea at Willey Reveley's with his wife Maria, Major Alexander Jardine, Charles Sinclair and Elizabeth Jennings. Godwin had known Jardine for some time and had probably met Mrs Jennings when he dined at her house on 5th September; the Reveleys and Sinclair he met now for the first time. Apart from Reveley, all the males among these new acquaintances were members of the Society for Constitutional Information (SCI) and thereby knew Holcroft already; Jennings had attended eleven SCI meetings where Holcroft was present, though he wasn't nearly such a regular attender as Holcroft was.

Godwin had already met John Horne Tooke and dined at his house with William Sharpe the engraver and Thomas Banks the sculptor, also members of the SCI. Tooke and Frost were long term SCI members but Tooke had been encouraging a new generation of members whose radicalism was inspired by the French Revolution. He proposed Merry in June 1791, Sharpe in March 1792, and Gerrald and Sinclair in April 1792. Gerrald proposed Jennings in June 1792 and Sharpe proposed Holcroft and Banks in September 1792 [4]. Gerrald and Sinclair had gone further and joined the less respectable, more plebeian London Corresponding Society which William Pitt's government found much more alarming than the SCI, at least judging by the spies with which they flooded it. Godwin disapproved of political organisations, preferring the power of reasoning, but his friendship with Holcroft and Gerrald drew him into the fray and provoked his most effective political intervention 'Cursory Strictures' which substantially helped acquit his friends of the capital offence of treason, at the same time as he was being drawn into the sexual intrigues of the Reveleys and the Jenningses.

Joseph Clayton Jennings (or Jennyns as he later spelt it) was the son of a planter and slaveowner in Eustatia, Bermuda, born about 1758. He was admitted to Lincolns Inn in 1786, and to Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1787, and married Elizabeth Povey, spinster of Princess Street, Cavendish Square at St Marylebone in October 1790. By 1792 he lived at Hart Street, Bloomsbury (three doors from the attorney John Foulkes) and he was called to the bar on 21st May 1794. Of Miss Povey all I know is she had a sister Catherine who had married the surgeon George Days in 1787, and a niece Elizabeth Days born in 1788 who later became a ward of Joseph Jennings. The Jenningses don't seem to have had any children.

Willey Reveley was an architect who had studied under William Chambers and travelled to Greece and Italy, where in 1788 he met and married the 18-year-old merchant's daughter Maria James, who had grown up in Constantinople. They returned to England and had two children by 1790, living first at Reveley's father's house at 42 Lambs Conduit Street, then in 1791-4 at 75 Titchfield Street (rated at £80), and then from 1795 at 2 Lisson Street off the Edgware Road (rated at £30), Francis Twiss becoming the new occupant of 75 Titchfield Street [5]. Godwin often called on "Reveley" or on "Mrs Reveley", whether on the offchance, by arrangement, during office hours, or at different addresses, it is hard to tell. In 1794 Reveley edited and wrote the preface to the third volume of a work on Greek architecture, taking the opportunity to caustically demolish the anti-Greek opinions of his former master Sir William Chambers, now top of his profession [6]. Reveley's career is said to have been blighted by his flippant and sarcastic remarks.

There are two pages of Godwin's notes (Abinger papers c.31 f92r and c.16 f26v), which, read in conjunction with a letter he wrote to Maria Reveley after her husband's death in the summer of 1799 (Abinger c.17 f93r&v), suggest that he was 'in love' with her from soon after they met. He wrote "we have now lived on terms of the most cordial and unreserved friendship for six years. For more than four of those six years I suffered no thoughts respecting you but those of single and unmixed friendship to find harbour in my heart". Implying that for a bit less than two years of that time, he did suffer such thoughts. And the notes calculated a period of 16 months from their first meeting till 23rd January 1795, and a period of 34 months (presumably part of the four "single and unmixed" years) from then till 17th November 1797, when the widowed Godwin began a period of "negotiation" with her until 8th February 1798. Adding on the month or two after Willey Reveley's death when Godwin proposed marriage to Mrs Reveley, that still makes less than two years he admitted seeing her 'with the eyes of a lover' [7]. The notes were clearly made on consulting both his diary and the dates of her (now missing) letters. The same page of the letter gives another clue to interpreting the diary: he wrote that she had preserved his acquaintance "often in spite of Mr Reveley, once in spite of myself. Again and again, when he was unwilling to receive my visits, by your perseverance you conquered his inflexibility; at another time, when I was no longer willing to pay them to him, you conquered me".

From 21st September 1793 Godwin's new social life had got off at a cracking pace and he saw at least one member of the two couples on 136 of the next 365 days, mostly with their respective partners present. At first Jardine, Holcroft, Gerrald and Sinclair were all part of the same scene, and science and law were discussed, but Jardine went off to Spain, and Gerrald and Sinclair to the Edinburgh Convention where they were both arrested. In October and November Godwin made 3 calls on Mrs Reveley, the first one for breakfast, but then things calmed down and he made calls only on Mr Reveley till June 1794. Meanwhile Mrs Jennings dined solo at Holcroft's in November, December, February and March, and on the 12th December Godwin noted "sup at Jennings's, confession de me" (short for madame). On 5th February Godwin saw 'Love's Frailties' by Holcroft at Covent Garden theatre with the three ladies Inchbald, Reveley and Jennings, and on 8th February he noted "sup at Reveley's, confession".

In May 1794 Mrs Jennings made a call on Godwin and the very next day Mrs Reveley turned up while he was sitting for his portrait to Thomas Kearsley. In June Godwin made his first call for six months on Mrs Reveley and the two women then came to his for tea. In July he called twice on each of the ladies. In August he did some writing for Mr Reveley and called only on him, till at the end of September he called on "Mrs Reveley LS" (which probably referred to Lisson Street). In October he went to visit Samuel Parr near Warwick but returned hurriedly to London on learning that Holcroft was in prison. Until Holcroft was released in December he saw less of the Reveleys and more of Jennings; and Foulkes whom he had previously met only at Jennings' became a regular host of his meals from this period. Foulkes was Holcroft's attorney in the treason trials and Godwin's attention was probably more on the trials than on love. But as soon as the trials were over the intrigues came to a head.

On December 9th Godwin called on Mrs Jennings; the next day he noted "sup at Jennings's, exp" (explanation). On December 22nd Mrs Inchbald sent him a letter saying she had a note for him from a beautiful lady who did not know his address (Abinger c2 f67). On December 29th he noted "sup at Reveley's, t a t" (tete a tete). On 9th January 1795 he noted "Greenwich" in small writing, which the notes mentioned above make clear was an important date in his interest in Mrs Reveley, presumably a secret assignation. On 12th January "sup at Reveley's, courir dehors" (run outside); on the 19th January, "sup at Reveley's, l'eternel"; the 23rd january was the date he gave in his notes for the end of his romantic interest in Mrs Reveley; and on the 24th January "tea Reveley's, t a t, l'imposteur". St Clair's reading of these entries is quite convincing, but far from certain, and the Jennings factor could revise it. Maybe at this point Godwin found out about the indiscretions  between Jennings and Mrs Reveley, and chose to retreat from being a lover to being a friend. Anyway, from there on the pattern changed.

The 5th of January 1795 when he supped with Jennings at the Reveleys was the last time Godwin ever saw a Reveley with a Jennings, except for the 30th January, when Mrs Jennings turned up while he was calling on Mr Reveley. Over the next five weeks (from 25th January to 2nd March) Godwin called on Mrs Jennings four times, and she called on him five times, twice with Miss Aris [8]; he also met her once; and he called four times on Mrs Reveley, and went with her once to visit Gerrald in prison, (although we are now out of the period where he later admitted seeing her with the eyes of a lover); he took four meals at the Reveley's and two at the Jennings's but after that never again ate with the Jenningses. Then from March to June he took ten meals at the Reveley's, called on Mrs Reveley twice and Mr Revely three times; and called on Mrs Jennings twice and Mr Jennings four times, and Jennings called on him once alone and once with Mrs Jennings.

This flurry of calls looks like he may have been acting as a go-between, or a moral arbiter. And it also looks like he forgave Mrs Reveley the 'indiscretions', but not Mr Jennings. In his letter of 1799 he wrote, "at a moment when what would have happened without my interference I regarded as your ruin, I spared no exertion of my faculties or my industry, I defied misrepresentation and obloquy in every shape they might assume, so I might rescue you." If he was referring to the 'indiscretions' here it suggests to me that Mrs Reveley may have confessed them to Godwin, and that he then alerted Mrs Jennings, and even persuaded her to proclaim them in order to prevent them going any further. But such speculation must remain tentative.

Godwin saw the Jenningses one last time, when they called on him on July 21st ,as did Fergusson, Barry and Miss Winal [9], and he noted "altercation". He noted chance meetings with J C Jennings twice more, in 1801 and 1822. Most of the other Jennings entries in his diary seem to have referred to others with the same name, except for two dinners at Horne Tooke's in 1801, where Francis Burdett was also present (see below for his connection with Jennings) and one at Joseph Johnson's in 1798 where none of those present were ever noted elsewhere in the diary in company with any Jennings, (so it could have been any Jennings). All the Jennings entries before September 1793 were at Brand Hollis', and very likely refer to Edmund Jennings [10], mentioned in Brand Hollis' will as his good friend. Then in Ireland in 1800 Godwin met another Jennings, who later appeared in London as "Jennings Id" and "Irish Jennings", and in the company of John Philpot Curran.

Godwin continued taking meals at Foulkes' and Reveley's so it seems likely that both those families also cut contact with the Jenningses, who moved from Hart Street after 1796 to Cumberland Street. Mrs Jennings died in 1801 at her husband's house, so she had probably chosen to stand by her man. But he remained wayward, as is shown by the baptism at Lambeth in 1797 of Joseph Clayton son of Joseph Jennings and Hannah [11]. Given that Mrs Jennings was said in January 1796 to have proclaimed her husband's indiscretions, it is interesting to note that the artist Samuel Woodforde, whose address was given as 75 Titchfield Street in 1792 so may have been living with the Reveleys, and who met Godwin at the Reveleys seven times, exhibited portraits at the Royal Academy exhibitions (in May) of Mrs Reveley in 1792, of Mr Reveley in 1793, and of Mrs Jennings in 1796 [12]. There may have been something flattering in the notoriety of scandal.

There was also a sub-plot around the Foulkeses: on 25th October 1794 Godwin supped at Foulkes' and noted "demele de me" (Missus kicking off) - on 29th December, just as the Mrs Reveley intrigues were coming to a head, he called on her but she wasn't in - on 27th July and 6th September 1795 (as P Foulkes, i.e. Philippa) she turned up at Holcroft's, as she did again on 29th August 1798 - Godwin called on her 30th September 1798 - she was at Holcroft's on 17th March 1799 - Godwin called on her on 30th April 1800, and she returned the call the next day. She obtained a legal separation from her husband on the grounds of his great cruelty and adultery in December 1802 on appeal to Doctors Commons [13],  so this seems to be another case of Godwin (and perhaps Holcroft) consoling ladies in "intellectual distress", as Mary Wollstonecraft put it [14]. The depositions in the Bishop of London's court (London Metropolitan Archives DL/C/288 f239) show that Mrs Foulkes moved out of her husband's house on 6th October 1800 after a long period of sleeping separately and communicating only by hostile notes. According to the artist John Raphael Smith's deposition, Mrs Foulkes was "peevish, fretful and quarrelsome" and used to harrass and provoke Foulkes for what Smith thought very trivial causes; they had nearly parted in 1798, and from 1799 she began to complain of his absence from home. Smith and others had intervened to settle disputes, usually at her entreaty, but eventually it turned out that from about 1799 Foulkes was keeping a mistress in Kentish Town where they went by the name of Mr and Mrs Fox. His mistress, (or such is the implication of his will), became the mother of his five children and lived with him till his death in 1821. Mrs Foulkes seems to have had no children and lived till 1840.

Jennings continued to play a part in the radical movement, standing in the Gatton by-election in 1803, and speaking on the hustings in the 1806 Westminster by-election on behalf of Sir Francis Burdett when the latter had been wounded in a duel with James Paull. On the 1819 Westminster election hustings Henry Hunt, supporting Major John Cartwright against Burdett, noted how Burdett had betrayed his friends, including Jennings. In 1810 Jennings married his second wife Margaret Bray, a minor - when he was fifty; but before she died in 1820 he was already living with Sarah Durran, and fathering her children. Durran became his third wife in 1821, and after she died in 1833 there were two more baptisms of children of Joseph Clayton Jennings and Rebecca before Jennings died in 1839, though these may have been illegitimate children of his son of the same name, but it seems in character for him to have gone on fathering children into his seventies. When he died newspaper obituaries pointed out he had turned Tory and pro-slavery; in 1815 he had been appointed Governor or Fiscal to the United Colonies of Demerara and Essequibo; and in 1819 he was declared bankrupt [15].

On 1st July 1795 Godwin in Warwickshire noted "letter from M Ry" and his notes mentioned that letter (with the date 30th June) as a significant point in his relationship with her. The day after he got back to London (11th July) he called on a Mrs Williams, writing the initials "MR" above her name; on 27th July "tea Reveley's"; on 22nd August "call on MR"; on 25th September "call on MRnah" (not at home); on 15th October "call on MR", and then in December relations with the Reveleys as a couple resumed. He didn't use the initials MR for Mrs Reveley again till the period of 'negociation' after Mary Wollstonecraft's death, (when he was seeing her once again 'with the eyes of a lover'). St Clair seems to think that her letter to him in Warwick asked him not to visit, but the autumn of 1795 could also have been the time referred to in his letter of 1799, when Godwin was unwilling to call on Mr Reveley and she persuaded him otherwise; or it could just as well have been one of the times when Mr Reveley refused to see Godwin, or the time when the Reveleys (according to the gossip) were not speaking to each other. At the bottom of one of the pages of notes he wrote "27/7, 15/10, 5/12, 7/12, Italy 16/3" and these dates match with diary entries for that autumn - 27/7 was his last meal at Reveley's for four months, 15/10 one of his calls on "MR", 5/12 Mr Reveley's first call on him since August 1794, 7/12 his first meal at Reveley's for four months, and 16/3, six meals there later, they talked of Italy.

From 1796 the Reveleys' next-door neighbour in Lisson Street was Esther Gisborne, mother of Mrs Reveley's future husband; she set up a school there with the help of her daughters, three of whom later married men of some renown (Muzio Clementi, Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding and John Varley) [16]. Godwin and Wollstonecraft (by then Mrs Godwin) took tea there after dining at Mrs Reveley's on 4th July 1797 and some Gisbornes turned up again when Godwin dined at Reveley's on 15th August 1798. Godwin bumped into John Gisborne and Mrs Reveley together on 3rd December 1799, five months before their marriage and five months after Willey Reveley's death. That the Gisbornes went to live in Italy (where they later met Godwin's daughter Mary Shelley) has perhaps no bearing on that talk of Italy. In another letter of 1799 (28th August Abinger c55 f53r) Godwin reminded Mrs Reveley of how, while he was married to Mary Wollstonecraft, Mrs R had "said you then loved me, for years loved me!"; and the entry of 5th April 1797 "dine at Reveley's, confidence" may well have been the occasion he was referring to.

After January 1795 and until he began to see Mary Wollstonecraft in 1796 Godwin may have been wary of further romantic involvement, and the fact that he reverted twice to seeing Mrs Reveley with the eyes of a lover (once after his wife's death and once after her husband's), along with his claim in the 1799 letter that he could conquer himself again and again in order to be just good friends, suggests his feelings for her remained strong. His visits to Mrs Inchbald continued regularly until Mary Wollstonecraft's death and seem to bridge the gap where he saw less of his sister Hannah. The nearest thing to a romantic interest for him in 1795 was the lively 25-year-old Miss Amelia Alderson.

When Alderson came to London in August 1794, having met Godwin in Norwich that June, it was she who called on him, and finding him out, called again (with a friend, John Boddington). Godwin spoke disparagingly of her staying out of town at Southgate, and Boddington was frightened by his manner. However Godwin accepted an invitation to dine three weeks later (16th September) at Mr Morgan's house at Southgate, and he noted her in his diary as "Amelia" among the company at dinner. This use of her first name for a young woman was rare in his diary - but see Dorothy above - and it is hard to tell if it was used affectionately or condescendingly here. But after that there were no more visits that year, though he saw her at Gerrald's in Newgate and at Horne Tooke's trial.

However on 13th March 1795 it was Godwin who called on her, and finding her out, called four days later. This year she was probably staying with Robert and Ann Batty in town, for Godwin took meals with her that summer thrice at their house, and with one of the Battys present four times at Holcroft's and once at Horne Tooke's, (as well as three other meals at Holcroft's at two of which she was the only female guest moted). On 27th May Godwin walked her to the Barbaulds' at Hampstead; and on 20th June he supped at the Battys' and took his leave of her before his visit to Dr Parr, and according to her letter to her friend Mrs Taylor, he wanted to give her a parting kiss but kept hesitating and did not dare. She also noted how much more gallant he had become in his manner towards females; perhaps this was just towards her, but either way she seems to have succeeded in softening him. Mary Wollstonecraft later wrote to him of her "You, I'm told, were ready to devour her" [17]; and it may have been Alderson that told her, since the two women had just spent an evening together.

On Godwin's return from Parr's, he took tea at Miss Alderson's with two other gentlemen on 17th July 1795; and the last time he saw her before she returned to Norwich he noted "sup chez AA" on the 18th August, the French word suggesting they were tete a tete. Her letter to him from Norwich dated 29th August (Abinger c2 f108), like her later ones, flattered and teased him but gave no hint there was anything more than an attraction between them. When she returned to London the following spring, he was already being subjected to a more flirtatious, or facetious, attack from Dr Parr's daughter Sarah, who was visiting London with her family (see her letters Abinger c3 f25-6 & c2 f88-9); and from mid-May he was seeing Mary Wollstonecraft much more often than Miss Alderson, and seeing Alderson less than he had been in April and early May.

Alderson and Wollstonecraft met at tea at Mary Hayes' on 9th June 1796, and later spent an evening together (probably on the 3rd August) [17]. The next day Alderson and Twiss called on Godwin, and later that day he 'overtook' Alderson and John Opie, her future husband (the first time Godwin had seen them together). The two women talked again on the morning of 6th August [17], and that night Godwin supped at Holcroft's with Alderson and Batty, and breakfasted at Alderson's the next morning, when Batty and Opie turned up. Godwin went with Alderson to call on Mary Hayes, and the next day he sought her, but did not see her again till the following spring. That December she wrote from Norwich to Wollstonecraft (Abinger c41 f3-4) and mentioned the gossip, which Joseph Farington had already heard in November [18], that Opie and Wollstonecraft intended to marry once he obtained his divorce. This time the gossip was clearly wrong.


[1] 4.1.1754 St George Mayfair John Houlcroft married Margaret Marsack of St Martin in the Fields; St Paul Covent Garden 1761 Dorothy Ann daughter of John & Margaret Holcroft baptised; St Marylebone 22.3.1794 Jean Claude Alexis Mathen married Dorothy Ann Holcroft; St Marylebone 10.1807 Ann Mathen buried. Mathen remarried in 1808 and died aged 68 in 1826. On 5.5.1804 Godwin called on Holcroft at Harwood's "adv. Mathans"

[2] I'm not aware of any studies of this question of the degree of freedom with which women dined in mixed company and would be grateful to hear of any. Godwin noted Miss Ramsay and Miss Mackenzie several times each at Jennings', and miss Christie twice at Mackintosh's, the unidentified Bell being there, and once at Bell's. There may be some significance in their Scottish surnames

[3] Alienated Affections, Leah Leneman (1998)

[4] National Archives TS11/961, 962

[5] St Marylebone ratebooks, microfilms at Westminster Archives

[6] Antiquities of Athens by James Stuart, vol 3 (1794) preface

[7] "you cannot form so despicable an opinion of me as to suppose that I can view you with no eyes but those of a lover" Abinger c17 f93r

[8] & [9] Elizabeth Aris spinster of this parish married 25.4.1792 at Bloomsbury St George to Henry Lagden. She was born Uffington, Shropshire in 1772 and had a sister Frances Letitia who witnessed her marriage and died unmarried in 1808 (her will National Archives PROB 11/1486). Their mother was born Mary Winnall, married James Aris and after his death married William Winnall. The connection between two fairly rare surnames, and with Bloomsbury, suggests this may have been the family Godwin met. Miss Aris called on Godwin on the same day as (and presumably with) Mrs Jennings on 25.2.1795 and 2.3.1795. Miss Winal was at Foulkes' along with Mrs Aris on 11.5.1795. Of the callers on 21.7.1795, Godwin had seen Robert Fergusson as recently as 19.5.1795 when he called on Jennings, and Miss Winal's presence was presumably not coincidental. Barry may have been either Colonel Barry or the artist James Barry and may or may not have been part of the Jennings's deputation.

[10] Edmund Jennings of Young St, Kensington died there March 1819 in his 88th year, formerly of Ripon and Middle Temple (admitted 1749). Member of Unitarian Society 1791, chaired Revolution Society at London Tavern 13.6.1792. Will of Thomas Brand Hollis, National Archives PROB 11/1414

[11] as [5]; Morning Post 6.5.1801; St Mary Lambeth baptised 23.12.1797 Joseph Clayton, son of Joseph Jennings and Hannah. Since Jennings had another son named Joseph Clayton born in 1815 by his second wife, we might assume this son didn't live long, but see note [15] below. (Incidentally the son born in 1815 changed his name to de Windt and his daughter became the Ranee of Sarawak - quite another story).

[12] Algernon Graves, Royal Academy Exhibitors

[13] Bury & Norwich Post 15.12.1802. John Foulkes' will (National Archives PROB 11/1653) was proved 1822 and made no mention of his wife Philippa, whose will (National Archives PROB 11/1929) was proved 1840 and made no mention of any children. John Foulkes made Jemima Simmonds, spinster "now residing with me" sole executrix, and listed five children with birth dates between 1801 and 1809, some of whom were still alive when Philippa Foulkes made her will, which suggests she was not their mother

[14] Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, ed. Janet Todd p425 (26.6.1797 to Maria Reveley)

[15] History of Parliament; Trewman's Exeter Flying Post 25.2.1819; London Gazette January 1819; Morning Chronicle 6.6.1815; Leeds Mercury 10.8.1839; marriages St Clement Danes 11.12.1810, St Pancras 3.10.1821; baptisms St George the Martyr Southwark 27.11.1835, St Matthew Bethnal Green 28.11.1838; National Archives C 16/69/D86 Drew v. De Windt. The bankruptcy of 1819 and the baptisms of 1835 and 1838 might also have belonged to his natural son born in 1797, see note [11] above

[16] as [5]; advert in Oracle 14.6.1796

[17] Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, ed. Janet Todd pp 345-6. The note to Godwin from Wollstonecraft saying she spent the evening with Alderson is dated 4th August 1796. It seems less likely they spent the evening of the 4th together as that night Godwin overtook Opie and Alderson after supping at his sister's

[18] Farington Diary vol 3 pp 705-6